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Redskins Depth Chart: Injuries continue to plague elite talent on offensive line, but will it stop?

Redskins Depth Chart: Injuries continue to plague elite talent on offensive line, but will it stop?

Overall, the Redskins lack blue-chip players, evidenced by the more than two decades since the team last landed an NFL All-Pro selection. 

One area where Washington does have elite talent, and could break their All-Pro drought, would be on the offensive line. 

That conversation starts with left tackle Trent Williams. Unquestionably the most athletic blindside protector in the league, Williams has made seven straight Pro Bowls and combines strength, grace and precise footwork to play one of football’s most important positions at a very high level. 

Beyond Williams, right guard Brandon Scherff mauls his opponents and has much more speed and agility than he gets credit. Redskins coach Jay Gruden labeled Scherff the best pulling guard in the NFL, and that case is easy to make. 

Without getting to the other three offensive line spots- with center manned dutifully by Chase Roullier and right tackle by Morgan Moses - Williams and Scherff are the headliners. 

There are other headlines though, and they aren’t the positive kind. 

The Redskins offensive line has sustained an outrageous amount of injuries the last two seasons. No team in the league has been forced to use more guard combinations, and both Williams and Scherff have missed significant time. 

Roullier was the only offensive player to take every snap last season, and while Moses gutted through a number of ailments, he was penalized more than any other tackle in the league. 

And there’s the left guard situation.

Washington hasn’t truly addressed that spot in years, instead trotting out Shawn Lauvao before his inevitable injury in the first half of the season. Last month, the Redskins finally attempted to get a handle on the spot by drafting Indiana guard Wes Martin in the fourth round and Alabama center/guard Ross Pierschbacher in the fifth. 

Inside the building, Redskins officials hope Martin can start at left guard right away. He’s very strong for a rookie and should be a capable run blocker. His pass blocking will be something to watch. 

The team also signed Ereck Flowers this offseason. A first-round pick of the Giants in 2015, Flowers was awful in New York and was cut midway through last season. Jacksonville picked him up and he played decent with the Jaguars to finish the year. 

There was talk that Flowers could push for the left guard spot, and he might. But he also might serve as depth at tackle, especially considering the Redskins lost Ty Nsekhe to the Bills in free agency. 

For parts of three seasons, Nsekhe has been a valuable backup in Washington, filling in for both Williams and Moses and occasionally at the guard spot. With Nsekhe gone, second-year pro Geron Christian will need to show much more than he did as a rookie, but his development will be hampered as he returns from a major knee injury suffered last year. This offseason, the team also agreed to terms with Tony Bergstrom, a depth player with some versatility, who also dealt with his own injury struggles.

The real ceiling of the Redskins offensive line will be determined by what players can stay healthy. That just hasn’t happened in Washington for the last two seasons, and in turn, it has submarined promising seasons. 

Fix the injuries, and offensively, the product should be significantly better; run the ball more effectively, use play action more effectively, throw the ball more effectively. 

As the reality of rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins starting for the Redskins this fall becomes more apparent, it should also become more obvious how important a healthy offensive line will be to his success. And it’s just too early to know if that will be the case. 

When everyone is healthy, the ‘Skins have a top five offensive line in the NFL. 

But when will everyone be healthy? The last few years that doesn’t last long.

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What the Redskins' offense must improve to ensure it's effective versus non-Dolphins defenses

What the Redskins' offense must improve to ensure it's effective versus non-Dolphins defenses

The Redskins' win against the Dolphins comes with a large, aqua and orange, possibly 0-16 sized asterisk.

Yes, Washington was able to notch its first victory this year, and doing that after firing a head coach and making yet another quarterback change is worthy of praise. It's also important for every guy in that locker room, especially with the chatter that was already emerging last week regarding the team possibly losing every game this year.

But still, the entire roster has to be better if it hopes to take down other, non-Dolphins opponents, especially the offense. There are a couple of areas where the unit clearly must improve to have a chance in their final 10 contests. Luckily, they aren't difficult to spot.

The first is their level of aggression.

Adrian Peterson thrived in Bill Callahan's run-focused approach, posting more rushing yards at Hard Rock Stadium than he had in total coming into Week 6. Like the first sentence of this story says, don't get too carried away (pun not originally intended but will leave it in there) because Miami is the worst run defense in the sport, but it was encouraging to see Peterson come alive and break some long ones.

What wasn't encouraging, on the other hand, were a few sequences where Callahan seemed far too content to play it safe.

The most egregious came at the end of the first half, where the Redskins got possession at their own 25-yard line with 1:07 left to play and a timeout to use. A second down Case Keenum scramble advanced the ball to the 34, but instead of hurrying up to get more snaps in or stopping the clock, the group took its time before picking up the first down 40 seconds later.

An incomplete pass and a give-up draw followed, so the Redskins went into the half with a 7-3 lead. They didn't use their timeout, they didn't push for a field goal attempt and they didn't even try a Hail Mary.

Callahan owned up to the sequence at his postgame presser, explaining he was OK with where the score was at. That mindset won't work from Week 7 on, however. Instead of accepting whatever future score advantages the Redskins have, they need to look to widen it in situations like that.

They're 1-5. Why be so conservative?

Of course, it's easier to be aggressive if your QB is locked in. Washington didn't exactly have that luxury in Florida.

Case Keenum was largely somewhat fine to fine in his return to the lineup, and thanks to a few shots to Terry McLaurin and that effort from Peterson, his return ended with a win. Afterward, Callahan named him the starter for the upcoming 49ers contest, but he has to do more if he's going to hold off Dwayne Haskins (writer's note: Haskins should be on the field by now).

That said, it may also help him if he was asked to do a little more, which ties into the first point. He averaged just 6.6 yards per attempt, which is a number similar to that of bottom-third offenses in the league. 58 of his 166 yards came on the two scores to McLaurin, meaning his other 11 completions and 23 tries went for just 108.

At some point, and likely some point soon, Callahan's beloved running game will be limited and the Redskins' signal-caller will have to make some throws and be the one responsible for moving the ball. It'll either be Keenum or, if he is mediocre again, it may then be Haskins. Whoever it is, though, he has to air it out more effectively.

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It’s been a while, but it’s time to praise Ereck Flowers and the Redskins offensive line

It’s been a while, but it’s time to praise Ereck Flowers and the Redskins offensive line

The Redskins bulldozed the Miami defense on Sunday, and it’s been a while since this sentence got written, but the Washington offensive line deserves a big part of the credit. 

For the first time this year the Redskins went for more than 100-yards rushing and Washington quarterback Case Keenum did not get sacked the entire game. 

Regardless of the opponent, that’s an impressive day for an offensive line. Add in the fact that the Redskins O-line got zero penalties called on them, and it’s quite an impressive day. 

“We really wanted to clean up the line of scrimmage penalties we had,” Redskins interim head coach Bill Callahan said after the 17-16 win in Miami.

Coming into that game the Redskins were one of the most penalized teams in the NFL, and the offensive line was a big part of that. A clean sheet on Sunday almost seemed impossible after a slew of holding calls and procedural flags became commonplace during the team’s 0-5 start.

“We try to stay away from holdings, hands outside the framework of the body,” Callahan said. “I thought our players were really focused and concentrated on getting that done.”

It’s also time to credit the Redskins front office for the left side of the line. Pro Personnel director Alex Santos had to really sell veteran Donald Penn on joining the team this August, and without Trent Williams around, Penn has been very important. 

There’s also the experiment of signing Ereck Flowers, a terrible tackle in New York for four seasons, and turning him into a guard. That’s working too. 

The challenge will grow significantly next week when the 49ers come to Washington. San Francisco is almost the opposite of Miami. They’re undefeated with a vicious defensive front and a high-scoring offense. 

For one week, the switch from Jay Gruden to Callahan appears to have worked. When Gruden was fired last Monday, Callahan moved quickly to change the physicality and intensity of his practice sessions and commit to running the football. It worked against Miami, barely as Ryan Fitzpatrick nearly lead a fourth-quarter comeback, but it worked. 

“When you can transfer that type of effort into the game, their preparedness, their willingness to extend themselves physically, that’s invaluable,” Callahan said. “I’m really proud of our kids and how they played today. We’ve got to get ready for a tougher team coming in here this week.”

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